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Threatened Dutch Politician Required to Move Out of Her Apartment,

because of the European Convention on Human Rights. This strikes me as potentially quite troubling, but also puzzling, because all I've seen on it is brief English language news accounts, plus this blog post that comments on the case and translates some Dutch news accounts, and this Christopher Hitchens Slate piece that first alerted me to this. Here's one English language account from Expatica News:

Liberal Party MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been ordered to vacate the high-security home she is renting in The Hague within four months.

An appeal court sided with her neighbours who complained her presence put their own safety at risk and caused disruption to their lives....

Somali-born Hirsi Ali is known as a critic of aspects of Islam and she went into hiding in November 2004 when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered. They had finished work shortly before his murder on Submission, a short film about the ill-treatment of women under Islam.

Hirsi Ali and fellow MP Geert Wilders spent several months in hiding in secret locations due to death threats made against them because of their stance on Islam....

The neighbours ... won on Thursday when an appeal court accepted Hirsi Ali's presence meant they no longer felt safe in their own apartments or in the communal areas of the complex. The court ruled that is contravened Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights which guarantees respect for a person's private and family life.

The Dutch State had contravened these rights by moving to the apartment complex without seeking their consent and without taking measures to diminish the neighbours' valid fears, the court said....

I understand the neighbors' concerns, but it seems to me on balance quite wrong -- and quite destructive of the fight against terrorism -- that they would have a legal right and, essentially, a European constitutional right to insist that Ali move out. Some risks, it seems to me, are inevitable whenever terrorists are trying to intimidate your countrymen and interfere with your democratic process. Sure, most of us would rather that these risks be borne entirely by others. But I don't think that we ought to have a legal right to insist on this. And if we do have the legal right to insist on it, that seems to only strengthen terrorists' ability to intimidate.

Plus, as PeakTalk points out, this "is not just about one outspoken member of parliament. Beyond a number of politicians there is a growing constituency of writers, artists and cartoonists who may rightfully claim government protection. And in most cases their neighbors are equally likely to take a less than charitable view of their right to exercise free speech. This is once more evidence of how Europeans fail to understand the bigger picture and are more than willing to let some short term comfort prevail over the long term survival of core values that built their societies in the first place." (I should stress, by the way, that this failing is a common and understandable human failing, not just a European one; it's just a shame if European law comes to reinforce this failing.) And, of course, "those responsible for threatening her will have the last laugh."

Nonetheless, it's hard to evaluate this for sure without knowing more of the facts and analyses underlying the court's judgment; and unfortunately I couldn't find even the Dutch-language version of the opinion. Do any readers know where the opinion might be found? If I get my hands on it, then I'll try to take the next step and get it translated.

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Blegging for Translation from Dutch:

Pieter Dorsman (PeakTalk) points to the court's ruling in the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case. If anyone could translate it from Dutch, that would be a substantial public service, deserving of much public praise and recognition that I'll be delighted to give you. Summarizing the argument and translating key passages would be a good start, since we beggars can't be choosers. . . .

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Translation of the Dutch Decision in the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Case:

Reader James Wallmann, who's a lawyer and who speaks Dutch, very kindly responded to my request -- many thanks to him for his help. Here's what he writes:

Here is a translation of the summary and a summary of the opinion....

Mr. Dorsman's translation of the summary is very good — probably better than mine.

Translation of "Inhoudsindicatie" (Summary) of LJ# AW5258, Gerechtshof [Court of Appeal], The Hague, 06/83

Translator's note: Except as indicated, all brackets are in the original decision.

The State purchased an apartment in an apartment building in [place] and renovated it as a high security residence. At the present time, the State allows [person] to live in this apartment. A number of residents of the other apartments object to this. They claim that they are in danger of becoming victims if an attack is carried out on [person] while she is in the building. In addition, they claim to be burdened by the security measures which have been established for [person]. For the most part, the court agrees with the residents. The court finds that an impermissible burden on the residents has not been proven. But, according to the judgment of the court, it is reasonable to believe that the residents do not feel safe within their own apartments because one of the apartments is a high security residence for [person]. Because the residents do not feel safe in the place where they — of all places — should feel safe, namely their residence, it is a violation of their right to live where they want to live [woonrechten, probably not "human rights" — trans.] In order to keep this violation of Art. 8 EVRM [Europees Verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens, or European Convention on Human Rights — trans.] from becoming an actionable violation, the State must see that [person] leaves the apartment within four months. The error of the State in establishing her residence in the apartment without legal justification must not be shifted to the residents, who did not agree to this. The judgment of the court is based on the specific circumstances of this case and, in particular, on the fact that this high security residence is occupied by [person]. There are insufficient grounds to conclude that the occupancy of the apartment by another protected person would be a violation of Art. 8 EVRM.

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Courage, Shame, and Practice:

On the Ayaan Hirsi Ali thread, one commentator asked me:

[W]here did the Volokh family just move to? If it's not a gated community, maybe you and your family could bear the risks and invite her to live next to ... you and yours.

We're always braver when it's someone else you want to share the risk with you, based on your own actions, not your neighbors or friends.

That's a fair question, it seems to me: What would I do if Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- or Salman Rushdie, or a Muslim who's gotten death threats from anti-Muslim bigots, or a black activist who's gotten death threats from Klansmen -- moved next to me?

Well, I hope I'd be ashamed to complain, much less try to demand that the neighbor be evicted. Would I realize that Ali's presence, for instance, creates some extra risk for me and my family? Sure. Would I feel some fear because of that? Sure.

But I'd hope that her presence would impress me with her courage, and would move me to at least try to feign equal courage, rather than trying to hound her from the neighborhood. I hope that I'd be embarrassed to say, to my neighbors and eventually to my sons, "Someone who was very brave, and brave in the service of trying to help our nation and help mankind, took tremendous risks. And to avoid taking far lesser risks, I turned against her."

Protecting one's family is a very great thing. Protecting oneself is generally good, too. But, no, protecting one's family and oneself against all risks can't be the highest goal, if our nation, the values we cherish, and ultimate we ourselves are to survive.

We praise the brave and we condemn those who -- however rationally -- conspicuously display absence of bravery precisely to reinforce this notion. We recognize that fear is human, and often rational. We recognize that each of us, if tested, might fail. But at least we should ask, I think, for a certain degree of chagrin about certain kinds of fears, for the decency to be embarrassed about them and to keep quiet about them rather than acting on them by trying to evict a courageous neighbor.

Finally, let's put things into a bit of perspective. The risk to the neighbors in the Ali case isn't zero, but it isn't a tremendous risk, either. It's not having to go to war against an invader. It's not joining the Resistance. It's not becoming a dissident against a tyrannical government. It's not being Gary Cooper in High Noon.

It's not rushing the cockpit of a hijacked plane (which, even if it might be rational on a personal cost-benefit analysis, requires more presence of mind and ability to overcome panic than I suspect most of us could muster). It's not even speaking out yourself against an oppressive and violent ideology. Look, I understand how appalling those risks are. I sympathize with those who silently try to avoid running them.

But dark days are here, and darker still are ahead. Each of us may one day indeed face a terrible test. If we don't perform the small acts of bravery, how will we ever be able to perform the large ones? If we don't try to make a habit of courage -- if we don't seize, in our mostly safe and comfortable lives, the opportunities to be brave -- how can we make sure that our courage will be there when we really need it?

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"Let Nobody Belittle Them

By Pretending They Were Fearless":

It was good to take up one's courage again, which had been laid aside so long, and feel how comfortably it fitted into the hand.
So wrote Rebecca West, writing in the Epilogue to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon p. 1125 (1941), of the English right after the fall of France (thanks to Richard Aubrey for first pointing out this quote). Yet important too is what follows a few pages later (p. 1130) (paragraph break added):

Most [Londoners, after and during] the fall of France believed, and rightly, that they were presently to be subjected to a form of attack more horrible than had ever before been directed against the common man.

Let nobody belittle them by pretending they were fearless. Not being as the ox and the ass, they were horribly afraid. But their pale lips did not part to say the words that would have given them security and dishonour.

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